CygNet upgrade integrates geospatial data for oil and gas sector

A monitoring, measuring and reporting tool for oil and gas companies, from a San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based vendor, was recently enhanced to integrate visualization of geospatial information, a missing link in understanding the geospatial relevance of data, said an executive.

CygNet Software Inc., a vendor of an operational platform for collecting, managing and distributing data across an enterprise, released CygNet 7.2 that now integrates geographic information systems (GIS) asset management data from Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI’s ArcGIS tool.

Steve Robb, CygNet Software’s vice-president of business development, said geospatial information provides a spatial context for data such as “where is the asset I’m reporting on, where is it in relation to other assets that I may own, and therefore how can I manage my infrastructure more efficiently?”

Robb described a scenario where an incident occurs at one of several compressor stations owned by an oil and gas company. “The operator can now look and see where is that compressor station with respect to points of consequence like industrial areas, residential areas,” said Robb. “What are my routes of access to get to that station to manage the incident?”

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With integrated GIS data, users – typically in engineering, operations, planning – can get a geographically and contextually accurate visual that is updated in real-time, whereas before, they would have to rely on “two dots and a line in between, no context whether that’s a hundred miles or a 100,000 miles,” said Robb.

Information integration works in the other direction, too, with CygNet data rendering into ArcGIS, which Robb said is particularly noteworthy considering GIS tools are typically not perceived as real-time systems but planning and analytical systems for engineering.

Robb said the integration between both systems is such that each system “maintains its integrity with respect to system of record status.” In other words, data is not copied across the network resulting in unwanted duplications.

According to Russ Conwath, senior research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., oil and gas companies have always had to have this sort of integration of information, and it’s been discussed amply for about a decade in the utility field on the electrical side. But is only “coming to the fore” on the oil and gas side due to tremendous pressure on the industry to “suddenly innovate and be cost-effective because the price of oil and gas has been crunched.”

Historically, Conwath said, in the oil and gas industry, people have had to manually integrate the data themselves, resulting in cost and timeliness issues. He added that “having two silos is a big problem because you’ve then got to have some process to adjudicate the two data sources and resolve any differences as far as what is in fact master data.”

From a reliability perspective, Conwath thinks GIS information is fairly accurate these days, and sees no issue using it for purposes like managing real estate, rights-of-way, and incident management.

In fact, Conwath said integrating GIS in the manner that CygNet has done would be “absolutely critical” to business continuity planning, in that “you need to be able to quickly handle things, such as if there’s a hurricane coming in this direction, what component of our assets will be affected, or if the hurricane has gone through, how are we going to reroute?”

Robb said a CygNet customer, a Houston, Texas-based natural gas supplier, is going live with version 7.2 in a couple of months. Besides operational efficiency, the other driver behind the implementation was safety because the company has pipelines that “traverse many populated areas all the way from Houston through parts of New Orleans, Alabama into Florida.”

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